Had fate not dealt him the cruellest of blows back in April 2012, Jamie Hamill would almost certainly have claimed his share of a place in Scottish Cup folklore.
Hamill was a key member of the Hearts squad preparing for a semi-final against Celtic that month when he suffered a serious knee injury in training.
It left him as a frustrated spectator as Paulo Sergio’s team upset the odds to beat Celtic at Hampden before returning to the national stadium the following month for a final which granted legendary status in Gorgie to those who lined up for Hearts as they crushed Hibs 5-1.
Now 33 and working as a joiner in Glasgow, Hamill hopes to be part of another famous Scottish Cup story with League 1 basement side Stranraer who face Rangers at Ibrox on Friday night in the opening fourth-round tie of this weekend.
It offers him a belated chance to cross swords with Steven Gerrard, albeit not on the pitch as he might have done at Anfield in 2012 when Hearts played Liverpool in a Europa League tie which was the reward for their Scottish Cup triumph.
But even if Stranraer were to pull off one of the biggest shocks of all time in the tournament, nothing will ever fully compensate Hamill for the dismay of missing out on arguably the greatest day in Hearts’ history eight years ago.
“That was tough,” he reflects. “It was on the Thursday before the semi-final when we were lining up the team in training and I snapped my anterior cruciate ligament. It was during a small-sided game with no-one near me.
“It was a hard one to take but it was actually in the lead-up to the final the next month that I felt it the most.
“Paulo Sergio asked me if I wanted to come away with the rest of the boys to prepare for the final but I had to tell him I didn’t really feel part of it. -“I remember my wife driving me to watch the final at Hampden and it was difficult for me. I wasn’t in that match day mode. That’s the point, looking back, when you can understand the mental health aspect of it that people talk about so openly now.
“You are scunnered at that point in your life. But my family were there to support me, which was a good thing at the time. I just wish to go I could have played in that final, though. remember we played Spurs in the Europa League that season, which was my first at Hearts, then obviously got the Liverpool games on the back of winning the cup.
“Those are big occasions that I was gutted I couldn’t take part in. It’s football, it’s what happens. You just have to dust yourself down and get on with it.”
The former Kilmarnock midfielder’s most recent visit to Ibrox saw him on the end of a 5-0 defeat in a League Cup quarter-final in 2016 when he was with Queen of the South, although he has happier memories at the Govan ground where he scored a late winner for Hearts in March 2012.
“I’ve had a few victories there in my career but there’s been a few drubbings too,” added Hamill. “It’s a game all of the Stranraer boys are looking forward to. We are struggling in the league but we are looking forward to going under the lights at Ibrox.
“We will go there with a game plan and hopefully get a good result. Our draw bonus will probably be bigger than our win bonus - I had a laugh with the chairman about that! He’ll be delighted with a replay at Stair Park.
“If we get a result at Ibrox, it would be up there with the time Inverness Caley Thistle went to Parkhead and knocked Celtic out of the Scottish Cup in 2000.
“If you look at the position we are in in the league and how Rangers are doing, having just beaten Celtic at Parkhead. Rangers look like they are back to their best after all their problems.
“Steven Gerrard has put a structure in place and he is a winner himself. He’s won trophies in England, the Champions League and he’s found his feet in the SPFL. I’m looking forward to going to Ibrox and seeing what Rangers are like.”
l Jamie Hamill was speaking at a William Hill media event. William Hill is the proud sponsor of the Scottish Cup.